“Anarchy in Monroe County!” is the startling announcement which comes to our desk, printed in huge black letters upon a leaflet sent out from that section to “every law-abiding citizen.” With the glance which takes in this appalling revelation, we catch also a sentence in large red letters calling for a “great law-and-order mass meeting” to consider the situation!
What has happened? Has the awful lynching epidemic broken out in that place? Has somebody been blown up by dynamite? or buildings destroyed by bombs? Hastily reading the statement of the facts, we discover,—what?—That some baseball clubs have been playing ball in the city of Rochester, ON SUNDAY. That is anarchy! for the clergymen of the place are agreed that it is such—speaking not as religionists, understand, but only as citizens.
Even the editor of the Rochester Times appears to share this extraordinary view. In his paper of May 26, speaking—or assuming to speak—for the law-and-order element of that city and vicinity, he says:—
“We do not hesitate to say that so far as it goes, the playing of baseball on Sunday in Monroe County or anywhere in this State, is ANARCHY.”
The circumstances which led up to this rather remarkable situation are these. The wave of agitation for an enforced “Sabbath” observance which has been disturbing so many communities in the land, has reached the city of Rochester, and, as stated in a city paper, “some excellent people, including clergymen and Y. M. C. A. officials,” started a campaign against Sunday baseball “on the ground that it is irreligious, detrimental to morals, and against the law.” They sent a committee to the ball grounds on Sunday to secure evidence against the ball clubs; but the managers having been informed of their purpose refused to admit them, which fact was of course reported and found its way, with accompanying comments, into the columns of the press. The outcome was a call for a mass meeting of citizens in Fitzhugh Hall, on Sunday, June 6, to take measures for the suppression of “anarchy.”
The Times, of June 7, gives a report of the meeting, which was attended by two thousand people. The speakers, as was to be expected, were clergymen, who wished it understood that they spoke not as clergymen, but as citizens. They betrayed their real standpoint, however, by their frequent references to the “Sabbath” and the moral law. Some of the utterances which gave character to the occasion, as given in the report, are as follows:—
Rev. Ward D. Platt: “I know that this baseball question is properly a civil question, but in my own mind I cannot get away from the fact that I am addressing an audience that has not relegated to the moles and bats the ten commandments, and that you still have a wholesome respect for an old book that is called the Bible. Most men like to see a game of baseball under proper circumstances and on proper days, but when the owners of these league teams become abettors of violations of the law and attempt to override the best sentiments of our people, then, I am sure, the people will say that they will withdraw their support…. These highwaymen have come out and attempted to throttle the laws of our great State in order that they may fill their purses. Here is a law of the State of New York, that rests upon the enactment of a decree thousands of years old, that was consigned to the awe-stricken people that gathered around the base of Mt. Sinai, that is as old as humanity itself, and, I say, here is a law, and what is the fact that confronts us? Three saloon-keepers, owning a baseball nine, have placed themselves in open defiance of the statutes of the State.”
Rev. C. A. Merrill: “This fight against Sunday baseball is really insignificant compared with the greater issues at stake. We are battling for the sovereignty of our laws. We ask the people for patriotism. We want to show the poor man; that when a law is made it is to be enforced to the letter, and not governed by the sentiments and opinions of our public officers.”
Rev. W. R. Taylor: “Are these men who favor a more liberal Sunday aware that when they make a hole in the wall for Sunday amusements, that the employer of labor will also come in through the same hole? I have faith that when the American people learn that this Sunday rest is a national institution that they will show their teeth and claws and defy the person who dares attempt to take it away from them. And I have even hope for the baseball cranks when they learn that Sunday rest is an institution of our Government.”
Rev. C. A. Barbour: “It is no business of the executive officers what the law is, except to find out what the laws are, and then, whether they are good or bad, it is none of their business, it is their duty to see that they are enforced.”
It is evident, according to this last quotation, that Mr. Barbour would have justified Pontius Pilate in crucifying Jesus Christ; for the law of the Roman government was squarely against Christianity, and it was none of Pilate’s business to consider whether it was good or bad, but only to enforce it. So likewise was the law of the  land against the martyrs who were put to death by Rome; and when the church delivered them over to the civil authorities, with a hypocritical recommendation for mercy, it was simply the duty of the latter to see that the law was enforced!
The Rev. Mr. Taylor’s statement that “Sunday rest is an institution of our Government,” betrays a surprising ignorance of the fundamental law upon which the Government rests. For that law—the Constitution—declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” and no religious institution can become an institution of the Government until this part of the Constitution is repealed.
The Rev. Mr. Ward omitted to explain how Sunday rest is based, as he asserted, upon the law of ten commandments given at Mt. Sinai. That law says nothing about the first day of the week, as every candid person must admit. Why do Sunday advocates persist in citing a law which specifies the seventh day as the Sabbath, in support of the observance of the first day? But all history testifies that in nothing has the human mind exhibited greater blindness than in its theology.
Doubtless those who assembled this mass meeting for the suppression of “anarchy” were actuated by a sincere desire to better the morality of the community in which they live, and firmly believe that the enforcement of the Sunday law will contribute largely to this result. But the fallacy of this view is so apparent that a moment’s careful thought should have sufficed to reveal it. Let us note a few facts bearing on this point.
1. There is no power in human laws to make men better morally. Even the law of God cannot in itself do this. The Scriptures plainly say that it cannot. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. The seventh chapter of Romans, from the tenth verse onward, is a graphic portrayal of the inability of the law of God to save or give any help at all to the sinner. It witnesses to his righteousness if he keeps it, and to his condemnation if he breaks it, and that is all. It furnishes him no power to do right, or to rise from the abyss of transgression. But (Romans 8:3, 4) “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
It is the life of Christ—Christ living in man (Galatians 2:20) that makes him better morally, and there is nothing else that can do it. Yet in their human blindness men—and even clergymen—imagine that there is some power in human legislation to make men better, and much of the legislation which goes upon the statute books to-day is framed with that idea in view! It is the supremest folly.
No act of the legislature can put Christ into one human heart; and without Christ there can be no ascent from the low level of human nature. No man by taking hold of himself can lift himself. Humanity cannot lift itself.
.2. The whole subject of Sabbath observance is fully covered by the law of God, which specifies that the seventh day (not the first day) shall be observed as the Sabbath of the Lord. That law is binding to-day upon every individual; it stands in the authority and by the power of the God of the Universe, and there is neither occasion nor room for the “Sabbath” legislation which man presumes to put forth.
And when men—clergymen especially—talk about the duty of obeying the laws of the land, they should remember that God’s Sabbath law is binding upon every individual in the land, and that that law takes precedence in any law of the land that relates to Sabbath observance. “We ought to obey God rather than men,” said the apostles, and that is the rule of Christian life to-day. And there is no greater anarchy than that which sets at naught the law of God.